CALFED Bay-Delta Program heading
  • Governor Brown
  • John Laird, Resources Secretary
  • Joe Grindstaff, CALFED Director

Bay-Delta Levees


Northern California has more than 1,100 miles of aging levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and its watersheds that contain the fuel that powers the world’s 6th largest economy – water. Delta water:
• Provides at least a portion of the drinking water for 25 million Californians
• Grows a $31 billion agricultural economy, and
• Serves as an important habitat to 750 plant and animal species.

The vast Delta is home to thousands of Californians who live in 13 cities and five communities within five counties spread over 1,000 square miles, who have built their homes and business and gain their livelihood from its flowing waters and fertile soil.

Key Delta Levee Issues

Levee Key Delta IssuesLevees of the Delta were built after the Gold Rush to reclaim a vast wetland for farming. The levees are fragile and at the mercy of natural and man-made perils. They must be maintained and repaired so they provide security against flooding of homes, farmlands and business that have located in their shadow. And they are a focal point for differing views on how best to satisfy California’s need for reliable water supplies and to safeguard its environment and Delta-sensitive economy.

Delta Risk Management Strategy

Photo of Levee Breach

Because Delta levees are fragile and so much is dependent upon their integrity, the state and federal governments have joined to develop an analysis of Delta levee risks and assets caused by various impacts, including: floods, earthquakes, subsidence and climate change.

This undertaking is called the Delta Risk Management Strategy (DRMS) and is a partnership between the state Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  Delta Risk Management Strategy

Delta Flood Risk

Delta Flood RiskA recent state study has shown that a 6.5 magnitude earthquake in the Delta region could cause levee failures so massive that they would result in a $30 billion to $40 billion loss to California’s economy. The devastation that can occur from failed levees was no more apparent than when New Orleans’ levees failed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, causing concerns over Delta levees to rise. Subsidence and global warming also are among the growing list of levee concerns.
  Delta Flood Risk

Funding for Delta Levee Repairs

Levee Funding for RepairsThe Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta levee system is a vital part of California’s water infrastructure and its improvement and maintenance is a top priority for the state’s prosperity. Funding for Delta levees has become a major issue in California since the sudden and unpredicted collapse of the Delta’s Jones Tract levee in 2004, and subsequent levee failures and flooding in New Orleans in 2005. Since then, California voters have approved the largest infrastructure bond in the state’s history, partly aimed at bolstering Delta levees. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new water infrastructure initiative picks up where the 2006 bond left off.
  Repairing California's Levees

Water Policy Issues

Photo of Governor SchwarzeneggerThe levee system of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is an important part of California’s infrastructure and has become a top priority in the state’s future. Delta levees protect a population of more than 500,000 residents, plus billions of dollars in infrastructure and economic activity, including a valuable agricultural industry and thriving tourism and recreation.
  Levees Water Policy